— -- Nothing says "I'll love you forever" like a diamond ring, for celebrities and ordinary people alike. Showing your engagement ring to friends – or, in celebrities' case, the whole world – is a universal part of the rite of passage of getting hitched.
But what happens when love fades? What do you do with the bling after the break-up?
The $1.2 million, six-carat pink diamond ring Ben Affleck gave Jennifer Lopez was reacquired by the famed jeweler Harry Winston and auctioned off. And many recall Ellen Barkin's very public sale of jewels given to her by billionaire Ron Perelman – she made millions from the auction, held by Christie's.
Now ordinary women are following suit -- although there are fewer zeroes involved and instead of famous auction houses, they're using websites like exboyfriendjewelry.com, idonowidont.com and ex-cessories.com.
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Meimei Fox's first marriage ended when she grew apart from her husband. She got engaged to another guy, but he left her at the altar with little explanation. "He cancelled the morning of, so it was a very, very, very painful experience," she said.
She is easing the pain and empowering herself by selling her rings on exboyfriendjewelry.com. Fox decided to sell her wedding dress on the site, too. She said she hopes to get around $15,000 for everything. She estimated the combined original value at about $16,000.
Fox said she plans to donate the money to Surf for Life, a charity that aids coastal communities in poor countries. Her ex-fiance urged her to sell the ring he'd given her and donate the money to charity.
Megahn Perry started exboyfriendjewelry.com with her stepmother, Marie Perry, when she wanted to sell her own wedding set. "To go to a pawn shop … felt bleh, icky," Megahn said.
Within days, the site had so much traffic it crashed.
"There is a sense of closure when you're ready to throw something on our site. It tends to be people who are ready to move on, although we tend to get a few where it's still very raw," Marie said. Rawness spikes in January, after the holidays' warmth and generosity have cooled, they said.
Another pattern they've noted: "Always beware of heart-shaped jewelry," Megahn said. "One of our mottos now is: one in every 10 relationships ends in heart-shaped jewelry."
The site has just two requirements.The seller pays a $1.99 listing fee, and he/she must share a break-up story. Many listers seem to embrace the opportunity to vent.
While these websites are a new phenomenon, monetizing memories is not. Prominent New York divorce attorney Raoul Felder confirms that precious metals and gems' emotional value, so high at the time of the gift, vanishes with love itself.
"Jewelry represents money. I have never had a client … say, 'I love this piece, I've got to have it forever.' … It's completely changeable to cash, whereas the pet is not, grandma's portrait is not," Felder said.
But if love -- and the jewelry symbolizing it -- are fleeting, the hope for new, perhaps more durable love is eternal. Meimei Fox is in a new relationship and is happier than she's ever been, she said. There's no proposal yet, but she thinks she'll marry him.
"I believe I'm with the love of my life, truly I am," Fox said.